Idling cars, idle kids

June 25th, 2008
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One inadvertent omission in my recent blog about the “greening” of our children was a discussion about newspapers. These days, when you walk to work early, as I do, what do you see? Besides the odd drunk or skunk or squirrel, you invariably see idling cars.

Why? Well, for those of you who are late risers, I may be about to bust a myth here. Those morning papers you so assiduously read every day are not delivered by children. As far as I can tell, the “paperboys” we knew from days gone by no longer exist. No more do kids wade through snow drifts, with frost-encrusted faces, doubled over from the weight of the local dailies packed into bulging canvas bags. They no longer leave their warm beds before the crack of dawn to pull over-laden wagons along the empty streets.
Newspapers are now largely delivered by elderly men in beat-up domestic cars. They leave the driver’s door open, in summer anyway, as they saunter up your walk and throw the bundle on the stoop. The car is idling.
If I were Andy Rooney, I’d say kids are just too well off these days and don’t need the money paper delivery pays. Or their parents are too paranoid of child abductions to send them out alone. By contrast, it seems it pays enough for old geezers who’re up at four A.M. anyway. Why not earn a few bucks while waiting for Tim Horton’s to open?
Back in the day, daily papers got out into the suburbs through essentially family cottage industries, with mothers often acting as distributors, and one or more children, or their friends, employed as carriers. Ironically, not only do today’s kids not do this, it may be those same post-war kids/parents who handled papers then, that are still doing it today.
So it is that the paperboy has gone the way of the dinosaur or, more accurately, the way of that other type of paperboy that you see in old movies yelling “Extra! Extra! Read all about it!” As you may recall, in the golden era of journalism, kids were actually hawking dailies, late and special editions – which would certainly violate numerous labour laws today.
So much have things changed that the statue of the young John Diefenbaker in Saskatoon might need an explanatory plaque before too long. The statue commemorates a boyhood meeting of The Chief with Sir Wilfrid Laurier, when Dief was selling papers downtown to earn a few cents a day. Clearly, no young person could ever meet Prime Minister Harper in similar circumstances today. Instead of young people on street corners we’ve got rusting metal boxes (but more on that later).
But let’s get back to the real problem – the idling cars. Municipalities have already contemplated making idling your car illegal. So here are our wannabe-Green kids actually destroying the planet. While they’re snug in their beds, harmful GHGs are unnecessarily billowing into the stratosphere. In other words, it’s idleness causing the excess idling.
Get those kids moving I say! According to Time magazine, almost one-third of them are obese anyway. Kill two birds with one stone, save the planet and save our kids.
This is indeed an appealing, Green vision. When they’re not walking miles back and forth to school, or hanging laundry on the clothesline, children can lug piles of rain-soaked newspapers from door to door. And the old folks can take a well-earned rest at Tim’s.
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By John Weissenberger